Women’s March in St. Paul shut down after AG demands limited crowd size

Organizers say they canceled a feminist rally that was scheduled for Saturday afternoon at the Minnesota State Capitol after state officials threatened to fine them over violating COVID-19 restrictions.

The Minnesota Women’s March said Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office told them they could be fined $25,000 if organizers didn’t limit the event to 250 people and get contact tracing information for all attendees, among other restrictions.

Saturday’s Women’s March was meant to be a reprise of the nationwide movement in which millions of people turned out in cities across the U.S. in 2017 to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump. There were 12 other events scheduled across Minnesota, but organizers said the rally in St. Paul was "singled out."

"It is not lost on us that the voices who continue to be silenced are those from our most marginalized and oppressed communities," a post on Facebook stated. "We will not stand for it. We marched together almost 4 years to declare we are stronger together and that remains true today."

Organizers said they would put together an online event on Nov. 1 in lieu of an in-person gathering.

The Attorney General’s Office issued the following statement:

"It’s everyone’s responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19. Upon learning of the Women’s March Minnesota event at the Capitol, staff from our office and the Minnesota Department of Health made a routine inquiry with the organizers. The purpose of the call was educate them about their responsibility to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 by completing a COVID preparedness plan that would ensure that the event complies with Executive Order 20-74 and readily available state requirements, as all events that are open to the public are required to do during the pandemic. During the call, the Attorney General’s office and MDH learned that that the event already had 350 reservations in excess of the limit of 250, did not have plans to limit attendance, and had only just applied for a permit with the State Department of Administration to use Capitol grounds. Organizers were encouraged to complete a COVID preparedness plan that would bring the event into compliance.

"The State takes seriously our responsibility to preserve and protect Minnesotans’ lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 8 million Americans — including 120,000 Minnesotans — are known to have contracted this deadly virus, and 218,000 Americans — including 2,200 Minnesotans — are known to have died from it. For this reason, the Attorney General’s office, the Department of Health, and the Department of Labor and Industry have contacted more than 70 large indoor and outdoor public events across Minnesota in the last several months — everything from sporting events and car shows to flea markets, campaign events, and dog shows — to make sure they are complying with requirements to stop the spread of COVID-19. This work is all the more important now with the recent spike in cases in Minnesota and the dramatic spikes in the states that border Minnesota. For this reason, the public should expect that the Attorney General’s office and other State agencies will continue to enforce the executive orders evenhandedly. We hope to gain everyone’s cooperation so that we make sure no one suffers the loss of a loved one because executive orders that were designed to keep them safe were disregarded."